By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay pitcher/outfielder Brandon Gielow never expected a big-time college to come calling his number during his recruitment process.
There was interest from UCF and UMass-Lowell, but none from the so-called “Power 5” schools.
But then Arkansas saw him pitch at the Wilson Premier Tournament in July. So did Tennessee. And everything changed.
One day later, Tennessee assistant coach Josh Elander rang Gielow’s phone. The message? Come visit our campus.
One month and an official offer later, Gielow verbally committed to Tennessee via Twitter on Aug. 13.
“It’s amazing, I honestly wasn’t even expecting big schools to be looking at me like Tennessee, at least this early in my career, but they noticed something and decided to jump on me quick,” Gielow said. “I think it’s a huge accomplishment to commit to a SEC school, especially Tennessee.”
Gielow visited Tennessee in July and toured the entire school, immediately falling in love with the baseball program as well as the campus. He says Tennessee’s coaching staff made him feel like an individual rather than just another number on a roster, causing the school to sky rocket to the top of his recruitment list.
“When I visited the college I immediately felt like I was at home,” Gielow said. “The atmosphere was great, the coaches opened up to me very quick, and they seem to take care of their baseball players academic wise as well.”
As a sophomore this past season, Gielow posted a 3.21 ERA and struck out 42 batters in 28 1/3 innings as Lemon Bay’s No. 2 pitcher. He also hit .284 with 14 RBI and 19 runs scored as an everyday hitter in the lineup to help lead the Manta Rays to district and region titles and their first state semifinal in program history.
“Tennessee is getting a high-class ball player,” said former Lemon Bay head coach turned assistant Casey Hanrahan. “He’s a great kid, smart, hard worker and has a lot of upside. He knows what it means to be dedicated to the game and a program, and he has experience in big games with more to come. The sky is the limit for Brandon.”
Gielow, who also plays travel ball for SWFL 2019 Grads under coaches Marc Trudel and Steve McKee, says the Volunteers want him to be a pitcher on their staff. The possibility of playing the field also exists but Gielow says that’s something he’ll have to work towards.
He also knows he still has a lot of work to put in over his final two seasons at Lemon Bay. The pressure of choosing a college may be off of his shoulder but one thing is for sure — don’t expect him to let up any time soon.
“I found my school, but that’s no reason for me to just stop what I’m doing,” Gielow said. “It gets three times as hard now because the Tennessee coaches are expecting me to come in freshman year strong and healthy. I’ve got to keep working hard and push harder.
“But it’s also easier because I don’t have to focus on getting scouted as much anymore – that was my main goal before, to get noticed (but) now that’s over. I just have to work hard, meet the coaches’ expectations and focus on high school and help my team bring a state championship back to Lemon Bay.”